The good news is that Japan’s dairy supplies have mostly returned to “normal” following March’s horrific earthquake and ensuing tsunami that devastated the country’s eastern region. However, a recent USDA-Foreign Agricultural Service assessment of Japan’s dairy industry says that fluid milk production for the nation as a whole is expected to be lower than last year, and could remain slightly short of the national demand for dairy commodities.

The natural disaster took an immediate, and huge, toll on Japan’s dairy industry.

More than 33,000 metric tons of fluid milk from the affected area were reportedly destroyed or disposed of for four weeks after the disaster. As a result, Tokyo and the surrounding areas suffered an acute shortage of fluid milk for that first month. Milk came back on-line fairly quickly, according to the report, but “yogurt supplies were severely affected by rolling electrical blackouts that were implemented throughout the country.”

Fortunately, the dairy industry was able to repair damage to farms and processing facilities, as well as secure fuel, feed and electricity, and get product moving to market again.

As of this month, it appears that most supplies of milk and dairy products in Tokyo and the surrounding areas have been restored to pre-earthquake status and dairy products are back on retail shelves, the report notes.

“However, there is concern that there will be a disruption in this summer’s electricity supply similar to the rolling blackouts that occurred in the early weeks of April, which could impact supplies again,” says the report. “Fluid milk for drinking shipped out from Hokkaido to other regions increased beginning in April to cover the temporary fluid milk shortage in the affected region. Increased shipments of fluid milk from Hokkaido, if continued through summer, could contribute to less availability of fluid milk for processing this year.”

Download the full report.